Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bad Reviews On Amazon.co.uk

So far the newspaper reviews of Nightfall have all been favourable, but I am getting some flack on Amazon.co.uk. I'm a big fan of Amazon but I do get annoyed at the way all feedback/reviews are treated equally. Sometimes reviewers are wrong or mean or idiots, and their reviews are treated in the same way as a 'real' reviewer who has posted hundreds of reviews. I mean, what sort of moron gives a book one star because he doesn't like the premise? Okay, I get that if you didn't like the premise you wouldn't give it five stars, but on Amazon.co.uk one star is the lowest rating you can give so giving Nightfall one star means they are saying it is the worst book possible.

I really despair when I read a review from someone who says they are a fan of my work and who then procedes to slag off a particular book. When you click on the button to see the other reviews they've written it turns out that the book they are slagging off is the only review they've ever done. Here's the thing. If they are indeed such a fan, why didn't they write reviews of the books that they liked? Why the one time they decide to write a review do they take the opportunity of slagging me off? I think that their definition of 'fan' and my definition might not be the same. If they'd posted half a dozen reviews on the books that they'd enjoyed and then written a negative review, I might take them seriously.

Here's a few one star reviews that were posted recently -

By E. Marshall (yorkshire)

having been an avid stephen leather fan for years i struggled with this book. he seems to have changed his style of writing and sadly i found it hard work totally lacking his usual gripping story line.so sad.

By Mark Allen

Let me start by saying that I am a big Stephen Leather fan and have been reading his books ever since I picked up a copy of The Stretch 10 years ago. Each year I look forward to his upcoming book and I have never been disappointed...until now. Nightfall is easily the worst book Mr Leather has produced - a book encompassing religion, demons, spells and satanism. If this is to your taste then fair enough, but what I have always liked about the authors previous efforts is their realism - the author clearly does his homework and can often paint a very accurate picture of life in various cultures and professions. But when you mix this with magic and demons it just doesn't work. Another problem with this book is that there are no likeable characters - as I read through I wouldn't have minded if any of the main characters had been killed off, and the message the lead character (Jack Nightingale) keeps seeing and hearing "YOUR GOING TO HELL JACK NIGHTINGALE" is probably the least scariest message someone could encounter. The book has the same fast paced writing style as previous Stephen Leather books and I think this is the only reason I managed to finish it. I think this book would probably suit the 13-14 age group more than adult readers, and if you are encountering Stephen Leather for the first time I would strongly reccomend that you skip this effort. Having said this, I am still looking forward to the next Dan Shepherd installment but will not be reading any follow-up's to Nightfall. I hope the author continues to produce two books a year instead of one, but two Dan Shepherd books would be much preferred to any more like this.

By A Bookfan (Loughborough UK)

I have read and enjoyed all of Stephen Leather's previous novels to the extent that I bought this new one without reading any summary.
What a disappointment the satanic and supernatural!!. I did not enjoy this and regret wasting my money on it. I enjoy a thriller as long as it is not too far fetched and totally unbelievable.
In my opinion he should get back to writing what his fans like .
A good "believable" and exciting thriller.
I will certainly check before I buy another.

Hmmm. All three claim to be fans, but in all three cases Nightfall is the only book they have ever reviewed on Amazon! Not one has bothered to review any of my books that they liked, or any other book for that matter. Wouldn't a true fan have posted reviews of books that they had enjoyed?

Here's the thing. The criticisms seem to be levied at the subject matter. And I do understand that not all fans of the Dan Shepherd books want to read a thriller involving Satanists and devil-worshippers! But this is what the blurb says on the back of Nightfall -

‘You’re going to hell, Jack Nightingale.’ They are words that ended his career as a police negotiator. Now Jack’s a struggling private investigator – and the chilling words come back to haunt him.

Nightingale’s life is turned upside down the day that he inherits a mansion with a priceless library; it comes from a man who claims to be his father, and it comes with a warning. That Nightingale’s soul was sold at birth and a devil will come to claim it on his thirty third birthday – just three weeks away.

Jack doesn’t believe in Hell, probably doesn’t believe in Heaven either. But when people close to him start to die horribly, he is led to the inescapable conclusion that real evil may be at work. And that if he doesn’t find a way out he’ll be damned in hell for eternity.

Now, I don't see how anyone can read that, buy the book, and then award the book one-star because they didn't like the premise! If you didn't like the premise, why did you buy the book in the first place?

Some reviews on Amazon are helpful, and I do take on board what readers say. But telling me they don't like the subject matter isn't helpful criticism. And at the risk of repeating myself, I don't think that just because someone doesn't like the subject matter means the book deserves one star. I don't like chick-lit, much. Should I go through Amazon giving one star to every chick-lit book?. Of course not. I just don't buy chick-lit. And just because I don't buy Confessions Of A Shopaholic doesn't mean it's not a five-star book. It is. It's brilliantly written and I wish I had Sophie Kinsella's sales figures!

Anyway, enough of a rant. For the sake of my blood pressure I'll just stop reading the reviews on Amazon.

And I wonder if I could ask a favour of any real fans who drop by this blog. If you bought Nightfall and enjoyed it, please post a favourable review on Amazon. And if you use your real name, I'll try to put you in the next Dan Shepherd book. (Not you, Kim, you're still in prison in Tango One!)


Stuart Neville said...

I've been getting a couple of negative reviews on Amazon.com from Irish Americans who don't like my book tarnishing the romanticised view they have of the Troubles. No actual Irish people, as in people who actually live in Ireland rather than having an Irish granny, have had an issue with it. But a small number of Irish Americans do. So they post one star reviews because they didn't like having their green-tinted glasses dislodged. I'm still considering whether or not I'll respond.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stephen,

You are right. It was unfair of me to write a negative review of Nightfall when I have not reviewed any of your previous books which I enjoyed so much. The review on Amazon has now been deleted. I think the problem was that I went into this book expecting something different. This was my fault - I should have read the synopsis before buying. I have read the book now and know that the Nightfall series is not for me. I can understand where the one star reviews are coming from though. This is simply your traditional following with high expectations hoping for more of the same - then coming away a little disappointed. I think with a change of premise you can expect to lose a few readers but will likely gain a new following elsewhere. This would probably be achieved better (and avoid any confusion) if the bookshops classified Nightfall under the fantasy genre rather than under fiction. If you go into Foyles on Tottenham Court Road you will find Nightfall sat next to your other books listed under CRIME/FICTION. I think if it was filed under the “science fiction, fantasy and horror” genre, a greater number of potential readers might stumble upon the book (and if they like the fast paced writing style which switched on many of your fiction readers) become avid Stephen Leather fans.

Nightfall is not to my taste, but the positive reviews the book has received suggest there are many who have liked the change of style and are looking forward to the next instalment. Please don’t become too fed up with low ratings. I would encourage you to continue to read the reviews on Amazon as this is the primary outlet for fans – the one star reviews from those who did not like the change of premise and did not provide any useful suggestions (like mine!) can simply be ignored.

Kind regards – Mark.

Anonymous said...

You know its a funny thing. I love this global communication that we have called the internet. Now, all of humanity can have a voice. Good or bad, amateur or professional, its all out there.
As a chef, I am used to this double edged sword. My profession has always been the subject to critique, sometimes fair and informed sometimes just plain ignorance, but thats life.
Into my work now enters the opinion of the dining blogger and some of these bloggers can be downright unsetteling. But I have learned to disseminate between the sensationalist cranks out to shock and those with a genuine interest and passion for food.
I suppose like you, when trying something new or even a different style, we leave ourselves open to critisism. But unless we try to evolve we run the risk of becoming stale and out of touch. Adapt or die.
On the whole I welcome feedback, and it helps me to fine tune my aproach.
I have enjoyed your evolving style from my first read of Hungry ghost, moving forwards, and even back to pay off and fireman.
Keep evolving Stephen, and give the neg heads the finger.


Anonymous said...

the people that gave bad reviews are not your true fans.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Stephen

I'm with Mark on this. The book in my opinion was incredibly disappointing. Like Mark, I felt the publishers should have made it absolutely clear that this was a completely different genre. I did read the back of the book before I bought it, but I thought there would still be a twist in the book revealing it to be in your usual thriller style.

Like others, I have never written a review before, but I am writing this because I am so disappointed. Not only was the book a letdown, but I also feel that I have lost an author I used to enjoy reading. That I write this time should be taken as a mark of respect for your previous novels.

Anyway, good luck for the future.


Stephen Leather said...

Hmmmm. Lesley, I don't understand why not enjoying one book means that you have lost an author. That doesn't really make sense. The new Dan Shepherd book is out in July, are you saying that you're not going to buy it because you didn't enjoy Nightfall?

I am not saying that readers are going to enjoy all my work. Or that all my books are five-star reads. I don't think that Pay Off or The Fireman (my first books) were especially good (3 star at best) and I'm not a big fan of The Birthday Girl (2 star?). Everyone is entitled to their opinion. My argument is that so-called fans who only ever post one review and it's a negative one shouldn't be calling themselves fans!

And I still say it's a nonsense to give Nightfall a bad review solely because you don't like the subject matter. It's like going into a French restaurant and eating a meal and then giving it a lousy review because you don't like French food! I shall blog on this at length a day or two as I'm now heads down on writing the sequel to Nightfall. And I'm having great fun doing it.